This is one in a series of interviews with candidates vying in Tuesday’s primary for their party’s nomination to represent Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, now held by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick.
FREDERICK – Congressman Roscoe Bartlett knows what some people are saying about him.
“This 85-year-old guy that’s been in there for 20 years, he needs to get out of there,” he said. “When they don’t see me, they don’t know me, I can see that stereotype.”
Bartlett of Frederick will be 86 in June and is running for his 11th term in Congress as the representative from the 6th District. But after he walks past an elevator and up two flights of stairs for an interview, he stresses that although he is “chronologically” 85, he’s not “functionally” 85.
Plus, he has some unfinished business to attend to. He ran 20 years ago because he thought the government spent and taxed too much, and he believes that’s true again today.
He sees the answer to the biggest problem — the debt and deficit — as to simply spend less. He wants to boost revenues without increasing the tax burden by eliminating compliance costs and imposing a flat tax on consumption, such as a sales or value-added tax.
“This is clearly a very progressive tax: The richer you are, the more you have. And the more you spend and the more tax you pay,” Bartlett said.
He also wants to return jobs from overseas by reducing regulations and taxes. He opposes more business taxes because he sees them as tax collectors, not taxpayers.
“There’s this illusion that big businesses out there ought to be paying more of the freight, but in a final analysis, the guy who works 40 hours a week and brings a paycheck home, he pays for everything. Because the businesses just pass on to him the taxes that they collect for the government. So I want to make it easier for our people. I want them to have jobs. I want them to have more in their paycheck,” said Bartlett.
A member of the Tea Party Caucus, he is a staunch fiscal conservative, anti-abortion and an advocate for the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. He voted with his party against the Wall Street bailout, against the health care reform bill, against repealing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell homosexual policy, and for the controversial debt deal to raise the debt ceiling while cutting the federal debt by at least $2.1 trillion in 10 years.
But Bartlett’s not afraid to vote with Democrats. So far in the 112th Congress, he is rated more bipartisan than 85 percent of his fellow Republicans. He voted against extending the PATRIOT Act, in favor of a ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees and for repealing tax cuts for oil companies.
Energy is important to Bartlett. He’s a sponsor of the annual Go Green Energy Conference for residents to learn how to be energy independent. He wants to lessen U.S. dependency on oil and gas for transportation and invest revenues from off-shore production into alternative and renewable energy.
Bartlett also was the first member of Congress to own a hybrid vehicle and co-founded the Peak Oil Caucus, which wants to create the same sense of urgency around generating renewable energy sources that surrounded the “Man on the Moon” project of the President Kennedy years.
He has been a scientist, a professor, an inventor and a farmer. He holds a doctorate in human physiology and used to teach anatomy, physiology and zoology. He has worked with the Navy’s School of Aviation Medicine and was a member of the Space Life Sciences research group, which aided NASA in missions to the moon.
In 2011, Bartlett sponsored a bill to stop invasive research on great apes. In a New York Times op-ed, he wrote about how he used primates to test his respiratory support devices in space. The devices were later used in manned missions. He said there was little understanding of the effects on the primates and no alternatives then, but there are now.
“Americans can no longer justify confining these magnificent and innocent animals to traumatic invasive research and life imprisonment,” Bartlett wrote.
In Congress, he is a member of the House committees on Armed Services; Small Business; and Science, Space and Technology.
He has faced criticism from his Republican challengers in the 6th District, who claim that he ran on a platform of term limits in 1992. Bartlett says that he didn’t run on term limits, but on the “Lead or Leave” pledge.
The pledge was a grass-roots movement in 1992 where signers agreed if they didn’t reduce the deficit by half in their first two terms, they wouldn’t run again. In 1992, the deficit was $290 billion. In 1996, it dropped more than half to $107 billion and eventually to $21.9 billion in 1997.
So he stayed.